People often ask me what it was like to assume my new role as president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and then to find myself compelled to close all four museums after only six weeks on the job. I generally give two answers.
First, although we closed our doors to the public, Carnegie Museums never actually closed. On the contrary, our staff pivoted with remarkable agility from installing and presenting physical exhibitions to generating an innovative menu of programming that enabled our audiences to enjoy our museums from home. I hope that you are inspired by the art and informed by the science brought to you via the offerings of Carnegie Museums from Home. The Andy Warhol Museum has been teaching children and adults alike to “paint like Andy” with its virtual demonstrations; Carnegie Museum of Art created a fascinating digital tour of its highly anticipated exhibition An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain and recently introduced the first of a series of online exhibitions; every day, the Science Center offers three things children and families can read, watch, and do to learn about science from home; and, among the Museum of Natural History’s virtual science talks, on a recent Saturday morning, paleontologist Matt Lamanna led an event for members titled Everything Wrong with Jurassic Park. If we offered an experience that you found especially inspiring, informative, or entertaining, we’d love to know. Please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My second answer is that the pain of closing our museums to the public has in many ways been matched by the stresses of preparing to reopen them. To maximize the safety of visitors and employees alike, our staff members have worked with extraordinary diligence on the many complex logistical problems posed by the “new normal” of COVID-19.
“The hope I wish to leave you with this summer is that … the healing and inspiring power of art is something we can’t long do without, and that our knowledge of both natural and human history is essential if we are to make sense even of unprecedented times.”
Several weeks into the crisis, I joined Lizzie Barker of The Frick Pittsburgh and Mitch Swain of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council in convening a group of more than 40 museums and other cultural institutions to develop a shared set of best practices and a collective approach to informing our visitors of the steps we are all taking to ensure their safety. We made great progress, and then another crisis struck: the killing of George Floyd, which resulted in the nationwide eruption of protests demanding an end to racial injustice. We realized immediately that our efforts to reach all segments of our community entailed an equally urgent aspiration to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion both in our community relations and within our institutions themselves. You will hear more about these efforts in the future.
We have all been living through what everyone calls—because there is no better word—an unprecedented period of American and indeed of global history. Along with my sincere thanks for your support, the hope I wish to leave you with this summer is that this experience will drive home at least two realizations that are not at all unprecedented: that the healing and inspiring power of art is something we can’t long do without, and that our knowledge of both natural and human history is essential if we are to make sense even of unprecedented times.
President & Chief Executive Officer,
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
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